How to Refinish an Old Fireplace Screen

What You'll Need
Wire brush
Fine grain sandpaper
Acetone (from your drug store)
Yellow oil or lacquer
Drop cloth

An old and antique fireplace screen is often a lovely piece to place around your fireplace. It can add a touch of old-world charm to a home and give it a friendly feel. If you have an old screen that is rusty or in poor shape, don’t throw it away, you should be able to do it up so it looks like new with a few hours and some tools. Make sure you use heat tolerant paint and primer as normal paints will peel rapidly when exposed to the heat of a fire. 

Step 1 – What is Your Screen Made Of?

Most fireplace screens are made of brass or cast iron. Both of these metals need different treatments. If your screen is made of wood, you will use the same steps, just with primer and paint suited to use on wood. 

Step 2 – If Your Screen is just Stained or Marked

A brass screen that is just stained but does not need serious work can be cleaned with a sponge and a mixture of lemon juice and salt. For a general clean up, you will need to wash the screen in water with a little dishwashing liquid added. Polish the screen with brass polish. Allow to dry completely then buff off the polish, then wash down again. This should really improve the look.

Use a yellow oil and soft cloth to oil the metal but be careful not to use too much. Use a soft, lint-free cloth to buff the metal to a shine. Instead of oil, you can choose to finish the screen with a coat of lacquer. 

Step 3 – Taking it Back to Base Metal

First, check any screws and tighten any that are loose. For cast iron, if it has intricate work, use a fine-grained sandpaper to remove any rust. If the rust is extensive and you feel that the screen is worth saving, use a wire brush to remove the rust. All traces of rust must be removed before you prime it.

If there is a flaking coat of lacquer, remove it with acetone. 

Step 4 – Repaint

This step only applies if you are painting your screen. Place your drop cloth on the floor before you start as you will get some drips onto the floor, and place the screen on it.

After your fireplace screen is completely dry, apply the heat resistant primer, making sure you get into any nooks and crannies. Allow to dry.

Paint the screen with a heat resistant paint. Make sure you get into all holes and nooks if you have an intricate pattern. Allow to dry, then apply a second coat. Using a spray paint can be useful for intricate screens as it will cover all the surface and into any holes. 

Step 5 – Ongoing Maintenance

Twice a year, use a solution of water and dishwashing liquid to clean the screen to keep it looking great.